Rubbish At Sport? Be Proud.
As a kid I was the second to last to be picked for football matches. My friend John was last, and he had polio. In my school you played compulsory rugby or cricket. I usually went to the library and took the punishment, although I did play once and let through the winning try, because me and my friend Simon were didn’t notice the player barreling towards us (we were discussing Samuel Beckett). I played one game of cricket and got hit in the eye with the ball.
Nobody in my family ever played any sport of any kind. My mother considered football ‘common’, my father occasionally watched motor-racing and that was it. My brother and I have proudly carried on the anti-sport gene. This doesn’t mean we were unfit; we never sat around, we just weren’t interested in competitive stuff.
In LA, my best friend had played professional tennis and had to give it up after a damaged hamstring; he became a travel agent. It seemed that sport promised you much, then snatched your career away, like ballet.
Years later I attempted to change this. Our company formed a softball team and foolishly challenged other film studios. When we played Disney, we arrived at the park to find our opponents doing pull-ups from trees. We’d been for a meal. We lost that one. Actually, there needs to be a stronger word than ‘lost’.
Undeterred, we played on. Martin, our art director (and designer of the upcoming e-book covers) made our team shirts, but the transfer inks hadn’t dried by the time of our next game, and we all got covered in orange paint. It looked like Holi festival more than a sports match.
Our third game was against Universal. They had drafted in huge scary ringers from their US office. On our side we had two very short players, one an artist wearing bondage trousers, our studio head Mia was on crutches and as we were a player short we had drafted in her terrier.
The Universal team leader looked at us and said, ‘Wow, they’ve got two midgets, a cripple, a dog and a guy with his legs tied together.’ We lost that one too. I got hit on the head with the ball and my brain pan emptied out of fluid. I was sick for a few days.
Recently I had a kick-about with friends and their kids. One, about eleven, accidentally kicked me in the face and I got a detached retina.
The point is that none of this stops you from writing about sport. For an anthology on football I wrote ‘Permanent Fixture’, a story about an abused wife married to an Arsenal fan who is protected by the very football crowd she has come to hate.
The moral of this story: You don’t have to be Hemingway. Write what you don’t know.